Nate Jones has seemingly turned a corner after starting his sophomore season in a major slump. He holds a 1.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts in his last six games after recording a 10.13 ERA and 11 strikeouts in his previous 10 outings.
"We need him in the mix," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "We need him to pull his end of the bargain. He wasn't horrible early, but he wasn't nearly as consistent as he needed to be. Now it seems like he's got it going. He's throwing more first-pitch strikes. He's getting ahead in the count. He's getting a little bit better angle and he's throwing all his pitches for strikes."
Jones had retired 15 batters in a row before Toronto shortstop Munenori Kawasaki singled to lead off the sixth inning on Monday. He allowed two hits over 1 2/3 innings and received the win in the series opener against the Blue Jays after Dylan Axelrod was removed from the game early.
Manager Robin Ventura said Jones was never at risk of a demotion during the height of his struggles because he and the pitching coaches thought the 27-year-old right-hander could work out the issue in the Majors.
"To do that, you'd need something to fill that in with that'd be an upgrade, and I felt like he was the best guy and Coop did, too," Ventura said. "You figure you can fix that. We've seen what he can do, and I don't know if it was a sophomore slump or whatever, but he has the stuff to be able to stay up here for a long time."
Jones enjoyed one of the better seasons by a rookie reliever in White Sox history last year, going 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA. For that reason, Jones wasn't nervous that he'd eventually find success. Cooper kept reassuring him that if he kept throwing strikes then eventually the rut would end.
Jones said little has changed in his approach through this season, but his recent success could be a function of getting ahead in counts, which allows him to expand his pitch selection. Opposing hitters aren't sitting on his fastball as much because he's locating his changeup and slider to work the count in his favor.
"I don't know if it's strike one but kind of the way you get strike one," Ventura said. "I think he throws hard, but again you're going to have to locate everything. Guys can hit 97-mph fastballs. To be able to locate something else to get them off of that has been big for him."
Candidates for 'Tribute for Heroes' announced
People magazine and Major League Baseball announced the three White Sox candidates for the "Tribute for Heroes" award on Tuesday. The award is a national initiative to recognize veterans and military service members who have demonstrated incredible bravery.
Each of the 30 Major League clubs has three finalists, and the one who receives the most votes will be the team's representative at this year's All-Star Weekend festivities. The team's hero will be recognized during a pregame event at Citi Field on July 16th.
Marcus Camp from Paxton, Ill., T.J. Owens from Libertyville, Ill., and friend of the White Sox organization Israel Del Toro are the three finalists for Chicago.
Del Toro's Humvee ran over an IED explosive in a remote part of Afghanhistan in 2005, leaving him with third-degree burns on 85 percent of his body. Doctors gave him a 15-percent chance to live but after 120 surgeries he's not only alive but has re-enlisted in the Air Force and is currently serving as an instructor. He's the first 100 percent disabled airman to re-enlist.
Owens was a medical specialist in Afghanistan who saved several terribly injured soldiers after a group attacked Combat Outpost Fortitude because they believed the American troops had burned a Koran. The aggressors threw a grenade into the compound, injuring 10 soldiers. Owens immediately treated the patients.
Camp has been deployed to Afghanistan once and to Iraq twice, serving nine years in the U.S. Army, seven of them as an Airborne Infrantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. He has an Army Drill Sergeant Badge, six Army Commendation Medals and has brought all of his soldiers home safely while holding a leadership position on two of his tours.
Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com to vote for their favorite stories through June 30.
Wise close to starting rehab assignment
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said injured outfielder Dewayne Wise is close to a Minor League rehab start with Triple-A Charlotte, and it could happen sometime in the next few days. Wise has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring since June 2 but was on the field at U.S. Cellular on Tuesday.
"He was just out there earlier and he looked good," Ventura said. "It's one of those where you go with how he's feeling, and he said he's feeling a lot better."
Chicago has managed without its backup outfielder, calling up Jordan Danks from Charlotte and finding some playing time for Casper Wells.
"The move right now is to get Dewayne healthy and see where we go from there," Ventura said. "But we have had some guys to mix and match in there, which has been great for Casper and Jordan."
Third to first
• White Sox left-hander Leyson Septimo was activated from the 60-day disabled list and outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte. He was on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain.
• Jesse Crain could have a chance to tie a White Sox franchise record on Tuesday. With one more scoreless appearance, he'll match J.J. Putz's 27 straight games without allowing a run.
• With a win on Tuesday, the White Sox can record their second four-game winning streak of the season.
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.